Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Bible Park Outrage; Battle Over Bullying; 9/11 Coin Scam? Teacher Suspended for Response to Bully; Grocery Store Censors Elton John Photo
Aired January 26, 2011 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight on 360, "Keeping Them Honest": a coin company profiting off 9/11. Are their commemorative coins a scam? The company is being accused of making false claims about what is in the coins. In particular, they say they use silver from Ground Zero. Do they have proof? We're "Keeping Them Honest."
Also, controversy over a Bible-themed amusement park. They plan to build a full-sized Noah's Ark with dinosaurs and unicorns. The state of Kentucky is giving them tax incentives. Should they? It's an emotional and fiery debate you will see tonight.
And a battle over bullying: a teacher in trouble for calling cops on a 7-year-old she said was bullying and threatening other students. Did she go too far? Dr. Phil weighs in.
We begin, though, as always, "Keeping Them Honest" with a company profiting off the horror of 9/11, and doing it in a way that some lawmakers and survivors say is false and abhorrent.
Now, maybe you have seen the ads or looked at the Web site. Here it is. It's called the National Collector's Mint. They're selling coins -- here's one of them -- billed as the -- the official first- responders 10th anniversary World Trade Center commemorative.
They say it's clad in .999 pure silver which they claim was actually recovered from Ground Zero. "From the vaults beneath the ashes of Ground Zero" is the exact wording. They sell these coins for $29.95 and the company bills them as never released for circulation, available only to collectors.
Now, you might have already heard that the 9/11 Memorial Museum is issuing coins to help finance the memorial, so you night think these are those coins. After all, it does says National Collector's Mint and official commemorative.
There's even a second version of the coin for sale that says $1 on it. But it's one Liberian dollar, legal tender only in Liberia. And there's a third version we found. It's advertised on TV. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
NARRATOR: Officially authorized 10th anniversary September 10th commemorative, featuring separate sculptures of the USS New York and the World Trade Center towers, inset with jeweler precision on its obverse, each entirely clad in .999 pure silver actually recovered from beneath the ashes of Ground Zero.
It is minted under an exclusive license authorizing the striking of the official Department of Justice FBI insignia on the commemorative's reverse, with our promise, justice will prevail. Each comes with a certificate of authenticity with triple verification confirming its 24-karat gold and .999 pure Ground Zero recovery silver consent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Wow. It sounds very official, right?
But, "Keeping Them Honest," if you were paying close attention to the very fine print at the end of the ad, you would already know that things are not quite what they seem. Take another look at the end here.
It says: "This is not affiliated, licensed or endorsed by the U.S. government or the U.S. Mint."
It's certainly not the impression one gets from the earlier sales pitch. The same is true of the Web ads, that gold and silver, 14 milligrams each. It sounds precise, sounds scientific, but what is a milligram? Well, it's one thousandth of a gram. So, that's about fourteen-thousandth of a gram of gold and silver.
And what about the claim about the silver coming from the Ground Zero vaults? It certainly sounds dramatic and moving. Well, two U.S. lawmakers from New York, one of whom you're about to meet, say there's absolutely no evidence for that claim, none.
We asked the National Collector's Mint for evidence. They say they have it. They haven't shown it to us or to anyone else that we can find. And what about the official sounding National Collector's Mint? Well, it turns out it gets an F. from the Better Business Bureau, a failing grade, citing numerous complaints and failures to respond to even simple requests for information from the Better Business Bureau.
It's also a company with a history. Six years ago, the National Collector's Mint paid out millions in refunds over ads for something called a Freedom Tower silver dollar. So, clearly, this is not their first attempt to profit off 9/11.
Now, in a statement, the company said it's doing nothing wrong -- quote -- "Our advertising for our 10th Anniversary September 11th commemorative is not deceptive and is clearly presented."
They also say the company has donated more than $2 million in sales from all of its 9/11 commemoratives to 9/11-related charities. That may be. But they aren't donating all the profits. They are making a lot of money.
There's a warning about their 9/11 coins up right now on the U.S. government's official Web site. It says: "The only official United States coin or medal to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks is the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Commemorative Medal, which is authorized by Public Law 111-221."
And, that medal, that is not going to issued until later this year. So, any medals you see being advertised are not official, are not -- the money is not going to help build this museum.
Joining me now, one of the lawmakers who wants the Federal Trade Commission to shut down National Collector's Mint, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who represents Lower Manhattan. And joining us via Skype, retired New York Police Captain Tom DePrisco.
Congressman, is this legit, I mean, what they're doing?
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Oh, of course it's not legit.
I wrote the bill in -- in the House and Senator Schumer wrote the bill in the Senate that created the National 9/11 Memorial Medal, $10 of which will go to -- or for every single one of them sold will go to the memorial and museum.
This National Collector's Mint is a total fraud.
COOPER: They -- they say they're official, that they're authorized.
NADLER: Official means official -- it certainly implies official by the United States government. It is not.
They say that they're authorized by the Secret Service Protective Bureau or something like that, implying that it is the United States Secret Service. It is not. They have no standing whatsoever, and they have done exactly the same thing, as you pointed out, six years ago.
COOPER: And they're...
NADLER: They were fined -- they were fined $2 million, but profited $11 million.
COOPER: So, they're making millions off these things?
NADLER: They may very -- very well be. We haven't audited them yet, but they -- I assume they're making a lot of money off this total scam.
And this silver and gold that they claim is 14 whatever is worth about 60 cents.
COOPER: And -- and you have asked for evidence that this comes from Ground Zero, from vaults underneath. Have you seen it?
NADLER: We have asked for evidence of that. We have not seen any such evidence. We have asked the Federal Trade Commission to shut them down and to investigate criminal penalties against them, because this is clearly a fraud.
COOPER: Officer DePrisco, what do you make of this? I mean, you were one of the key officials involved in actually recovering gold and silver that as in vaults underneath Ground Zero. You say these ads make your blood boil.
TOM DEPRISCO, FORMER NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT CAPTAIN: Yes, Mr. Cooper. Thank you very much for having me on the program.
Good evening, Congressman Nadler.
NADLER: Good evening.
DEPRISCO: Back in October of 2001, we were well aware of the location of this vault that was owned and managed by the Bank of Nova Scotia underneath Four World Trade Center.
What part of my job was, as a representative of the Office of Emergency Management, was to coordinate a retrieval and recovery plan to remove all the contents of that vault, to move it from the Ground Zero area over to another location, which at that time was another vault in Brooklyn.
COOPER: So, what about these ads make you so angry?
DEPRISCO: Well, you know, I lost friends and colleagues on 9/11. I worked down at Ground Zero for 14 months. I was heavily involved with much of the recovery operations. I worked with a great team of people with OEM and other city agencies.
And just to -- to hear -- I have heard these ads for years, and it's always bothered me, but I always figured, what can you do? But, right before Christmas, when I heard the latest ads, when they continue to mention that the silver and gold was found from a vault underneath the ground -- under the Ground Zero area, I knew in fact that I was directly involved in getting all that property moved from the Bank of Nova Scotia -- Bank of Nova Scotia vault from Ground Zero to another vault.
And every bit of that property was removed.
COOPER: So, I mean, if -- if these guys really have the evidence that this silver is from -- from Ground Zero, you would think that they would present it.
NADLER: Well, first of all, but they -- given what the officer just said, they can't have any such evidence, because every ounce, every fraction of an ounce of gold and silver that was present there...
COOPER: Was moved. NADLER: ... has been recovered, moved and accounted for. Therefore, they're lying.
COOPER: Well, I mean, we don't know -- it's possible that they purchased the silver that was later moved, that was owned by the Bank of Nova Scotia.
But -- but, again, if they had done that, you would think that they would present this evidence.
NADLER: They would have evidence. They would have proof. And, of course, these are people that demonstrated history of -- of fraud and of untruth.
COOPER: Can you shut these people down?
NADLER: Well, I think the FTC can, the -- the Federal Trade Commission can. And Senator Schumer and I have asked that they do just that, as they did to them in 2004.
COOPER: Captain, have you ever tried to contact this company, or -- or, I mean, do you hear people who are buying these coins? What do you tell people who think, you know, maybe they want -- they want to buy these coins?
DEPRISCO: Honestly, I have never run into anyone or heard of anyone buying the coins. I had never had any need to contact the company directly. It was just...
COOPER: What would you tell someone who was thinking about buying the coins?
DEPRISCO: I would tell them not to...
NADLER: I -- I...
DEPRISCO: ... definitely not to.
NADLER: I would tell them wait for the official coins to -- medals to be issued by the United States Mint in a few months. And they will be sold for the cost of minting them, plus $10, which will go to the museum.
COOPER: Did -- did you know about these coins that were being sold years ago, these Freedom Tower coins?
NADLER: Well, I remember hearing about them.
So, the -- this company has a record of doing this?
NADLER: This company has an absolute record of doing this, and it's in total disregard to the truth and of...
COOPER: Do we know how much they have already made from these new coins?
NADLER: I think I read that they made -- from these new coins, no, we do not.
NADLER: I think I read that they made $11 million and were fined $2 million in 2004.
Well, we will -- we will continue to follow it.
Congressman Nadler, appreciate you being on.
And, Captain, as well, thank you very much for -- for being with us via Skype. I know it's always complicated via Skype, but I appreciate you coming on to tell us what -- what you guys did so heroically after 9/11.
Let us know what you think. The live chat up and running right now at AC360.com.
Up next: a creationist theme park with a giant model of Noah's Ark, complete with dinosaurs and unicorns. The question is, should the state of Kentucky be giving tax breaks to help build it? It's an emotional and tense debate. You will see it coming up in just a moment.
Also, tonight's "RidicuList": Congressman Dennis Kucinich suing a congressional cafeteria because, three years ago, he bit into an olive pit in a sandwich. Guess how much he's suing for? We will tell you coming up.
Isha is also working on a bunch of stories.
What are you working on, Isha?
ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Anderson.
I will have an update on the condition of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords just ahead. She's been moved to TIRR Memorial Hermann for therapy.
Also, Anderson, there's a new study out on how men and women watch the news. So, check this out. When an attractive individual is on the screen, can you guess which of the sexes retains less information?
COOPER: I -- I'm not even going to guess. (LAUGHTER)
COOPER: But we will -- we will hear from you shortly.
COOPER: Tonight: A biblical-based theme park is creating controversy. It's about whether the government is too involved in helping to build it, believe it not, build a Noah's Ark. A Bible- themed amusement park is being planned for Northern Kentucky, complete with what's being called a full-scale Noah's Ark tourist attraction.
And it could get millions of dollars in tax incentives from the state. Now, it's supposed to open in 2014. The park is for-profit and privately funded. But Democratic Governor Steve Beshear said the government is very excited about it and explained why.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. STEVE BESHEAR (D), KENTUCKY: Let me express why state government and local officials, in not just Grant County, but also in the numerous surrounding counties, are so excited.
The numbers alone tell the tale. This is a $150 million investment that is projected to create nearly 900 jobs, including almost 550 full-time jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: All right, certainly a lot of jobs. Local reports say there's about 12 percent unemployment in the area.
Here's what we know about who is behind the theme park. A group called Ark Encounter LLC is partnering with a group called Answers in Genesis. Answers in Genesis built the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, with exhibits from the pages of the Bible.
Here's what we don't know at this point. We don't know who specifically is investing in the Ark Encounter project or how much the project will get in tax incentives.
"The Lexington Herald-Leader" reports that state officials estimate the park could get $37 million in tax incentives after it opens and starts generating tourist revenue. There could be some incidental costs the taxpayers may have to indirectly pick up. "The Herald- Leader" says the state's Transportation Department may have to widen exits off the interstate to accommodate the project.
But the main point of controversy is this: How close is too close for comfort when there's a religious park being built, and the government is helping at all? It's a really interesting debate. It's an emotional one.
Earlier, I spoke with senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, Reverend Barry Lynn, the founder of Americans United For Separation of Church and State, and Ken Ham, who is president of Answers in Genesis USA and the Creation Museum.
COOPER: Mr. Ham, do you see this park as part of a ministry, as essentially a church, or is it purely business?
KEN HAM, PRESIDENT, ANSWERS IN GENESIS USA: Well, actually, the Ark Encounter is a profit organization that is set up to give a particular view of biblical history. It's really a park about biblical history centered around Noah's Ark.
And so it is going to be financed by a number of businessmen, as well as the ministry of Answers in Genesis is a member of the profit organization.
COOPER: Well, Mr. Lynn, what about that? I mean, why would -- if -- if it's a religious-themed business, why should it be treated any differently than any other business?
BARRY LYNN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE: Well, it's really a ministry. It honestly is.
Its purpose primarily is to try -- on the Web site of Answers in Genesis, it says this -- to convince the world, including those of us in America, that there is a literal truth to the Bible. And that includes the literal truth of the story of a worldwide flood and Noah's Ark.
So, it would be very -- I would be hard-pressed to find anyone who looks at this project and doesn't see this as a ministry. And that's precisely what's wrong with the government of Kentucky, the state, helping to subsidize it.
COOPER: Mr. Ham, are you trying to convert people here?
HAM: You know, first of all, it's not Answers in Genesis that owns the Ark Encounter. The Ark Encounter is a profit organization. Answers in Genesis is just a member. You need to understand that.
And, secondly, the -- the government of Kentucky is not subsidizing the Ark Encounter. They have an economic incentive program available for anyone. In fact, they can't have viewpoint discrimination, as Barry Lynn would like to have.
And because of the economic incentive program, we, like anyone else, if we fulfill the criteria of that -- and there are five criteria -- it doesn't involve the state endorsing any particular religion or anything like that.
In fact, the Ark Encounter is not a religion. It is a theme park. It is centered around biblical history. And -- and the state is not going to have viewpoint discrimination just because it's a theme park centered around biblical history.
LYNN: No, no, but, see, that is fundamentally wrong.
The truth of the matter is that this park, whether it's partially private or partially for-profit, it is promoting the one thing that the other groups getting subsidies don't promote, and that is a specific religious viewpoint.
Aside from the legal issues, I was horrified just a few weeks ago when the governor, Steve Beshear, of Kentucky stands up there with folks from this Ark park and basically gives his blessing to what -- let's just call them unorthodox ideas from Answers in Genesis.
Answers in Genesis does believe...
LYNN: ... just let me finish -- believes the Earth is 6,000 years old, believes that dinosaurs and humans existed at the same time, only true in "The Flintstones," and also believes that there were really unicorns.
I don't think that the heft, that the weight of the state of Kentucky should be asking anyone, directly or indirectly, to subsidize these ideas. Mr. Ham can have those ideas. This is America. Please don't ask everybody to help you pay for them.
COOPER: Let me bring in Jeffrey Toobin just here for -- for a second.
Jeff, what do you think? I mean, what are the core issues here?
COOPER: Is this freedom of expression, freedom of religion?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's certainly a freedom of religion issue and an establishment of religious issue.
But I think it's a really hard question, because if you -- the courts, for one thing, have not been all that clear in this area. But if you strip away the rhetoric, what the courts have said is something you -- the government can't sponsor something if the primary purpose is to advance religion.
Well, what is the primary purpose of this amusement park? Is it just like Disney World, which is essentially secular, or is it more like a church? And this is some sort of hybrid. And, you know, I -- I don't know how the courts would look at it.
In recent years, the courts have generally been more accommodating of government sponsorship of religion, of private -- of parochial schools, of soup kitchens. So, my sense is they would probably uphold it. Whether it's a good idea or not, a separate issue.
COOPER: Mr. Ham, what do you say to -- to critics who believe that, you know, the sate is essentially giving their blessing to this, and yet it goes against some of the educational goals that the state has -- has set for itself?
HAM: Well, I think what you have got to do is, first of all, look at the -- you know, I'm not an -- I'm not an attorney, of course, and -- but we have obviously consulted with some very experienced, you know, constitutional attorneys, who do not believe this has anything to do with the separation of church issue, with -- with the establishment clause or anything like that.
And the -- the economic incentive is for companies to come in and, particularly for tourism -- this is the Tourism Development Act -- is to come in and to provide something that will bring money into the state. I mean, this is going to provide 900 jobs at the park, an estimated 14,000 jobs in the ripple effect, bringing $250 million to the state in the first year, $4 billion over 10 years. It's an incredible...
COOPER: Your critics say...
LYNN: Oh, we have heard that...
LYNN: We have heard that...
Your critics say those job numbers are false, or -- or -- or unproven.
HAM: Oh, well, they -- they -- they can say whatever they want, but we have a track record already as an organization at the Creation Museum.
And we also are using the state's own figures in regard to ripple effects. And we have done a lot of research...
HAM: ... that's been done by -- by really...
LYNN: You know, Anderson...
HAM: ... high-quality -- quality people, people that CNN used, by the way.
LYNN: You know, Anderson, every -- Anderson, every time there's a bond issue in order to build a sports stadium somewhere, there are always people with these numbers.
They say, look, you put out a bond, help the -- the government will help pay for this stadium, and look at all the collateral economic benefit. There is no place where that has worked. It will not work here. And I suspect that this is just one of the arguments. To me, the central argument is this.
COOPER: Let -- let Mr. Lynn finish. Then I will let you...
LYNN: The central -- the central argument is this.
Look, the first time the Ark was launched, Noah did it without any government subsidy. I can't imagine why this Ark and park endeavor in Kentucky cannot be paid for by the private goodwill of the people who support the theology that's behind this.
And, Jeffrey, I agree with you. If this was not really a ministry, it would, in my judgment, be a tougher question. But it is a ministry. And we know that from the very documents about this primary partner called Answers in Genesis.
COOPER: Mr. Ham, I want to give you a chance to respond. And then we have got to leave it there.
Actually, it's a profit organization of which Answers in Genesis is a member. And what we need to understand is that the -- the Tourism Development Act in Kentucky actually lists five criteria, which any organization can apply for.
And if they fulfill those five criteria, then what the -- the -- the state does, they do their own independent study. In fact, we have just paid $74,000 for this independent study that will determine whether it fulfills those five criteria. And, if it does fulfill those five criteria, then the tax incentives -- it's not a subsidy for the whole park.
Most of the money comes from private individuals to -- to build this. It's a tax incentive to bring something like this into the state, so it brings lots of money into the state. And because it happens to be...
LYNN: Maybe it only subsidizes the unicorns.
HAM: Because it happens to be a biblical theme park with a biblical theme, then Barry Lynn and -- and those in his group want this discriminated against, whereas the state is not discriminating against any group who wants to apply and fulfill those criteria. COOPER: It's an incredibly contentious issue. I thought you both explained your positions incredibly well.
Barry Lynn, thank you.
LYNN: Thank you.
COOPER: Ken Ham, thank you very much. Good discussion.
Jeffrey Toobin as well, thanks.
COOPER: Well, still ahead: a story that proves just how complicated the issue of bullying is. A California teacher placed on leave for calling parents about a bully in her class and calling police. She says school officials weren't reacting quickly enough, so she took action on her own. Dr. Phil McGraw weighs in ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. PHIL MCGRAW, HOST, "DR. PHIL": If she had not done something, and, in fact, the child had shown up at school with a gun and done something, she could be criticized for that.
So, in many respects, these teachers who are very dedicated and wanting to do the right thing are kind of in a position where they can't move and they can't stand still.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And also tonight: caught on tape, a not-so-brilliant escape attempt, jumping out of a patrol car, windows -- handcuffed, jumping out of the patrol car window. Crazy. We will show you what happened afterward -- not such a good idea. That's tonight's "Shot" -- ahead.
COOPER: Still to come, a California teacher suspended after calling cops on a 7-year-old she says was a bully. Did she go too far or did her bosses who suspended her? Dr. Phil joins me shortly.
First, Isha Sesay a 360 bulletin -- Isha.
SESAY: Anderson, more protests in the streets of Egypt today, along with a police crackdown. Several demonstrators were beaten and dragged away in Cairo. Thousands of protesters over the past two days have demanded the removal of President Hosni Mubarak. At least four people have been killed and more than 100 security forces injured.
Law enforcement sources working on the case against alleged Tucson gunman Jared Lee Loughner say he spent time surfing various Web sites to learn about political killers. Loughner is accused of trying to assassinate Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was moved to a rehab hospital in Houston today. Her condition has been upgraded to good from serious.
The Department of Homeland Security is doing away with its color-coded terror alert system. It will replace it starting in April with a more tightly focused location-specific approach. The announcement is expected tomorrow.
Michael Vick has signed his first paid endorsement deal since he went to jail for dogfighting, Unequal Technologies, who will pay the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback an undisclosed amount of cash to pitch their shock-absorbing pads which he used this season.
And, Anderson, listen up to this. A new study suggests female -- sexy female anchors distract male viewers, to the point they can't even remember the news. Researchers at Indiana University created a short newscast with the same female anchor.
In one, Anderson, she was sexy, the other, not so much. They discovered male viewers retained more of the news content when she wasn't wearing the bright lipstick and tight clothing.
I feel like that's going to come back and haunt me, that reading.
COOPER: What did you say?
SESAY: Nothing. Let's move on and say...
COOPER: I heard everything you said.
COOPER: I absorbed it all.
SESAY: You see, that is just wrong that you should even play along with that.
COOPER: I mean, look, you -- it was a total setup for -- for a joke.
SESAY: It was a total setup, but can I also...
SESAY: ... say, just for the men at home who are now feeling that we're bashing them, that the survey didn't test women and how they respond when you, say, have George Clooney on screen reading the news.
COOPER: Well, they -- they should do that. They should test that as well.
SESAY: I think it's absolutely imperative.
COOPER: Isha, tonight's "Shot," this is an amazing picture. It comes from the back of a patrol car, Utah -- proof that escape plans hatched in desperation on the fly not a good idea.
Take a look. This burglary suspect's hands are cuffed behind his back -- the car is going about 30 miles an hour .-- climbs out an open window while the car is moving.
COOPER: Apparently, convinced an officer to unroll the rear window by saying he was going to vomit. And then he tried to escape. That's why they had a bucket. Those are the hands, his hands after it. Police say he was brought to a local hospital. He had minor injuries.
SESAY: Yes. That's some serious road burns he got.
SESAY: He must have really wanted to get away, because that's really dumb.
Still to come, I don't know if you heard this. Congressman Dennis Kucinich suing over a sandwich he ate three years ago, claiming significant pain and loss of enjoyment because he bit into an olive that had a pit in it. I kid you not. It's our "RidicuList" tonight. And we'll tell you how much he's going to sue for. Just try to guess. Just try to guess. Hold onto the figure in your head. You'll see if it even comes close.
Also tonight, a teacher worried about a 7-year-old bully in her class calls the parents of his classmates; also calls the cops. She gets reprimanded. Did she go too far or did the school? I'll talk to Dr. Phil about that ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. PHIL MCGRAW, TALK SHOW HOST: I don't think she meant any harm here, and I think we need to make clear that this was way overstated. I don't think this boy was going to come to school and shoot people.
Did she need to react to it? Of course she did. But come on. I think we need to calm down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" tonight on bullying. You know, we devote a lot of time to the issue, because some kids are being bullied literally to death. Taunted, beaten, terrorized. Some have taken their own lives.
In too many cases, no one steps up in time to stop it. We've seen that time and time again. This time, though, somebody did take action based on their concerns. A teacher took action, but then took heat for what she did. Now, some believe she went too fast and too far, violating a child's privacy and school policy. Others are thanking her. Two sides here and no easy answers. You can decide for yourself.
We're talking about this woman, Elaine Brown. She's a second-grade teacher at Oakhurst Elementary School in Central California. There's late word on her case tonight, which we'll tell you about shortly.
But to start at the beginning, she was a teacher with a problem child; as she saw it, a serious danger to his classmates. She says she spoke one by one with the kids that he was allegedly bullying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELAINE BROWN, TEACHER: One was that -- that boy was pushed off the high slide, and went onto the ground. One was called an "F"-ing loser on the playground. One was spat upon on the swings. And one of the worst ones was a child was told that he -- the bully was going to bring a gun to school and shoot -- bring a gun and shoot and kill him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, alarmed by the child's behavior and afraid for his classmates, Ms. Brown says she brought her concerns to parents, the school district and then the principal. She says officials didn't act quickly enough. So two days later, she called the sheriff's office, seeking a restraining order but learned that they don't apply to young kids.
The next day she received a letter of reprimand from the school and was put on paid leave.
Now the question tonight: was she punished for doing the right thing, or did she act in haste and violate a child's right to privacy? State guidelines require that a teacher, quote, "notify the parents of both the target and bully and attempt resolution expeditiously at school."
She says she did that, but in notifying the parent volunteer and going to the sheriff, the school says she went too far. It also says it already has an anti-bullying program in place, but not all parents agree that enough is being done.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERRI NEVINS, UNCLE OF STUDENT: The school policy about dealing with bullies and this particular child is not working, because my nephew was -- was beat up by this person again today.
DENISE GREGOIRE, RESIDENT: If I had a student in that class, whether or not they were affected by the bully, I would like to know there's a bully there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, as for Ms. Brown's fellow teachers, they put out a statement supporting the school, not supporting her. It reads, and I quote, "At no time have we, as teachers, felt threatened to discuss behavior problems with our administration. We trust you to remember that there are always two sides to a story, and we ask you to seek out the facts before making assumptions based on limited sources."
Ms. Brown says her colleagues were under pressure to say that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: There was a core group of teachers there that was pushing this forward, so there was intimidation involved. And think about what would happen if a teacher didn't sign that. Suddenly, the principal, who's been known to not always do the right thing towards people who go against her, suddenly they would be a target.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: As we mentioned, there's a late development in the story tonight. After both a public outcry and internal investigation, the school announced they were going to reinstate Ms. Brown today. Superintendent saying he's disappointed that she made a fuss about this to the media. Ms. Brown, though, says she's glad she did what she did.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: I think bringing this to light is going to help a lot. And again, this isn't about demonizing one child. This is about getting the message out that we need to be proactive when signs arise so that we can make sure that it doesn't escalate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Elaine Brown tonight.
I also talked about the case and the tricky problem of balancing student safety and student privacy with Dr. Phil McGraw on -- host of TV's "Dr. Phil."
COOPER: Dr. Phil, this is a complex issue. I mean, the teacher claims she was acting out of concern for the safety of her students. The school says she should have followed the procedures they already had in place. What do you make of it?
MCGRAW: Well, obviously, this is an emotional issue, especially right now on the heels of what's happened in Arizona, as far back as Columbine. And we have the Virginia Tech situation. And I think sometimes people do get emotional in these situations.
And think about it on -- in the -- in the alternative, Anderson. If she had not done something and, in fact, a child had shown up at school with a gun and done something, she could be criticized for that. In many respects these teachers, who are very dedicated and wanting to do the right thing, are kind of in a position where they can't move and they can't stand still. Now, should she have talked about this to other parents instead of going directly to the parents and to her administrators? Probably not. Probably not the best idea.
But what I hate is that this teacher has been suspended. I mean, we all need to calm down here and recognize that we're just trying to stay safe and keep our kids out of harm's way.
COOPER: Right. And the father of the accused bully now says that his son is actually also a victim of bullying, and I guess it highlights what we often hear from schools and experts, which is that sometimes a child can be both, both a bully and a victim.
MCGRAW: Well, there's no question about that. And what we do need to think about is what's the impact on this child? If he's being demonized in this way and people are teasing him or sending him messages or talking about them, you know, I don't want this to become some self-fulfilling prophecy, where he feels like he's an outcast and he does withdraw from school.
You know, I think everywhere in the country you go, you're going to find people that really want to do the right thing here. And I've just -- as I've said, I've spent time kind of back home recently, talking about all the things that have happened, and in the heartland, people want to do the right thing. And I think that means we've got to have some common sense, just calm down and think this through.
Why is this teacher suspended? I don't think she meant any harm here. And I think we need to make clear that this was way overstated. I don't think this boy was going to come to school and shoot people. Did she need to react to it? Of course she did. But come on. I think we need to calm down.
COOPER: It seems like the issue is kind of resolving itself. We've heard now from the school, though the teacher says she hasn't heard, but we've heard from the school that she's going to be able to come back to school, restart her job. And the school says they're reviewing their policies and trying to increase their training on bullying.
So it does seem like kind of cooler heads have prevailed once this thing has been investigated.
MCGRAW: Well, Anderson, I hope that's true. And look, I'm a huge fan of teachers. These men and women don't get into this career for the money, because they are so underpaid as to be embarrassing.
These are people that take money out of their own pocket to buy supplies for their home rooms and for their schools and for their lesson plans. We need to help them. We need to reach out and give them all the training, all the help and all the support that we can.
And the same thing with this father of the son that made this comment. You know, we've got -- every bully in America needs help and counseling, not just punishment. Every victim needs help and counseling. So I think we just have to say, look, everybody take a deep breath here, and let's talk about what the ultimate impact is on the children.
COOPER: Dr. Phil, thanks.
MCGRAW: Anderson, thank you.
COOPER: Well, we're going to have more from Dr. Phil ahead. A grocery store in Arkansas facing criticism today for covering a magazine using a shield that's usually for photos that are sexually provocative. What was on the cover? Elton John and his new baby. Details and Dr. Phil weigh in, next.
Also, a congressman sues over a bad sandwich from three years ago. He bit into an olive pit. You're not going to believe how much Congressman Dennis Kucinich is suing for. That lands him on tonight's "RidicuList." We have that ahead.
COOPER: Tonight, a Harps supermarket in Arkansas has reversed its decision to censor an image of Elton John and his family. Now I want to show you what put the story in motion. It's a little hard to tell. But the -- that's the current issue of "Us Weekly" magazine. Its cover features Elton John and his partner, David Furnish, and the couple's new infant son, Zachary.
The store said some customers complained about the image on the magazine, so it put that family shield -- that's what they call it -- over it, which as you can see, says it's there to, quote, "protect young Harps shoppers." The question is, protect them from what?
Now, usually, these shields are placed over racy magazine covers that are sexually provocative. In this case, the family shield was covering up a family. That's the uncensored cover.
An outraged customer tweeted a picture of the shield we just showed you, setting off a floor of complaints to the company. Today, the company said it's taken down the shields. I talked to Dr. Phil about it a short time ago.
COOPER: Dr. Phil, what do you make of this story out of Arkansas, a supermarket putting up what they called a family shield to block the latest issue of "Us Weekly," which features a cover photo of gay parents Elton John and David Furnish with their newborn son? Now, apparently, the store covered it up after some customers found it offensive and complained. What's your take?
MCGRAW: Well, I think it's absolutely, unequivocally absurd. I just -- I am so shocked that this is still happening. I mean, I know it's happening, but that's so very, very disappointing. And you know, I know Elton, and you could not meet a nicer, more down- to-earth guy that will become a loving parent here. And I hate that. And I hate he's having to hear all of this at a time of having so much joy in his life with this wonderful baby.
But I mean, come on. We're covering up the magazine cover because two gay men are celebrating their baby? Take a deep breath.
COOPER: We should point out the president of the company that owns the store says it wasn't a corporate decision. It was just made at that particular location. It was the manager who made the decision, and they say the shield has now been taken down. But I guess, you know, it's I guess a learning moment for a lot of people.
MCGRAW: Well, but really I hope it does. You said it; it's a learning moment. I hope it makes all of us stop and think, "Wait a minute now. Are we -- are we really being reasonable about these things?"
And I do understand in this food chain that the magazine was being sold in the other 65 locations. And so it was one person making one decision in the moment. But maybe it's a constant reminder that we just need to be thinking about how much we're being judgmental of others and how much we just need to have a spirit of inclusion.
COOPER: Dr. Phil earlier tonight.
There's a lot more going on. Isha Sesay is back with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.
SESAY: Anderson, the northeast is getting walloped tonight by a fast- moving storm that's already forced hundreds of flight cancellations. Winter storm warnings are in effect from the southern Appalachian Mountains to coastal Massachusetts. New York and Boston are bracing for between 8 and 12 inches of snow.
The Food and Drug Administration says it's found a possible link -- has found a possible link between saline in silicone breast implants and a very rare type of cancer. Anaplastic large cell lymphoma, former non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The FDA says the risk is small but significant. And it goes on to say it's asking all breast implant manufacturers to update their product labeling to reflect it.
It was a banner day for stocks. The Dow and S&P 500 finished at their highest level since the number of 2008. The Dow closed just under 12,000.
And Anderson, check out these pictures that we want to show you. It's kind of weird; it's kind of creepy. A grand piano has mysteriously appeared on a sand bar in Biscayne Bay. It just appeared. It's about a half mile from shore, and the oddest thing, they don't know how it got there. They also have no plans to move it, planned or not. It's a new set of Florida Keys.
COOPER: Ar, ar, ar. Yes.
SESAY: I couldn't resist it. You can't blame me.
COOPER: It's like a -- I mean, I couldn't really get a good shot because my eyes are completely gone now. But is it all broken up and stuff. Has it been floating or something?
SESAY: It's just completely broken up. It turned up there, so you can't bang out a tune. If you're thinking about playing some Elton John, you can't. It's just -- it just turned up.
COOPER: That's weird.
SESAY: All sorts of theories are saying it's a publicity prank or is it a jilted ex-lover trying to get back? I don't know. Seems a little bit elaborate.
COOPER: Did you just make that one up?
SESAY: Sort of, kind of. Do you have a problem with that?
COOPER: Interesting. Interesting theory there.
All right. This -- I find this ridiculous, which is why it's on tonight's "RidicuList." Tonight, we welcome a new name to the "RidicuList," Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.
Now, he's not on the list for any political reason. No. America's most courageous congressman -- that's what it says right there on his Web site; it's what he calls himself -- is on the list because he's courageously suing a congressional cafeteria.
See, Congressman Kucinich bought a sandwich three years ago and, while eating it, bit into an olive pit. That's right, you heard me, an olive pit. Or pits, not really sure. He's not really sure.
Anyway, guess how much he's suing for? Come on, just try to guess. It will be fun.
He's suing for $150,000. That's right, $150,000. Now, you can buy 72,000 cans of olives for that money. We checked.
Kucinich is suing four different companies involved with the cafeteria.
Now, at first, I didn't actually believe this story, and I was dropping things. So we checked the actual lawsuit, and it says on or about April 17, 2008, he bought a sandwich wrap and, quote, "said sandwich rap was unwholesome and unfit for human consumption in that it was represented to contain pitted olives, yet unknown to plaintiff contained an unpitted olive or olives which plaintiff did not reasonably expect to be present in the food prepared for him, and could not visually detect prior to consumption."
Don't you love lawyer talk?
First of all, where do you go when you get hit by a sandwich, the Mayo Clinic?
(SOUND EFFECT: DRUM BEAT)
COOPER: Would have been funnier if I said hurt by a sandwich. Then I would have been funnier.
(SOUND EFFECT: DRUM BEAT)
COOPER: Thank you very much. Try the veal.
(SOUND EFFECT: DRUM BEAT)
COOPER: But not at the congressional cafeteria.
(SOUND EFFECT: DRUM BEAT)
COOPER: All right. Seriously, the guy bit an olive pit in a sandwich that had olives in it. Shocker.
I'm not an olive fan, but as far as I'm concerned, you buy olives, you take your chances. It's like buying seedless grapes. You never really know until you bite into it.
And it's not like the congressman bit into an anthrax apple or foie gras with a finger in it. It was an olive.
Now I'm sure no one in the cafeteria planted that pit on purpose, and this happened three years ago. Isn't there a statute of limitations on pitted olives?
The lawsuit goes on to say, and I quote, "Plaintiff sustained serious and permanent dental and oral injuries, requiring multiple surgical and dental procedures, and has sustained other damages, as well, including significant pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment."
Come on, loss of enjoyment? Loss of enjoyment? The guy lives in Washington, D.C. Who enjoys living there? Visiting, yes, but living? Not so much.
As for serious permanent oral injuries, multiple surgical procedures, we found this video online. Here he is five days after the alleged olive incident on the House floor. His mouth seems to be working just fine.
And here he is four months after his serious and permanent injuries at the Democratic convention, using his permanently injured mouth to bash the Bush administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: They can track our every move, but they lost track of the economy while the cost of food, gasoline and electricity skyrockets.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You know what also makes the price of food skyrocket? Suing a cafeteria for $150,000 for making you a sandwich.
How did he come up with that amount anyway, $150,000? According to cosmetic dentistry sites, which we checked, a basic dental implant costs at most $3,000, which I assume would have been covered by his government dental insurance. Oh, yes, they have that.
On 14CaratGold.com -- no, 14CaratGoldTeeth.com -- excuse me while I get that site right -- they sell a really nice grill that will only run you about 300 bucks.
Look, Congressman, I guess that it's probably really unpleasant to expect a nice, juicy olive and then hurt your tooth biting into a pit. And I get no one likes going to the dentist, although my dentist, Dr. Sabator (ph), is excellent. And yes, Mom, I know I'm due for a cleaning.
But let's have a little perspective here. An olive pit in your sandwich? That's a lucky -- that's a little bit of bad luck. That's maybe a bad day.
When did it become OK for a U.S. congressman to sue for more than three times what the average American makes in a year because he had a bad day?
Not surprisingly, this isn't the congressman's first rodeo. It turns out he's sued over not being on a ballot, sued over not being invited to a debate. He even sued his own book publisher for not doing enough to sell his autobiography. But this sandwich lawsuit is the most ridiculous.
The congressman declined our request for an interview, which put us in a pickle, of course. But instead of just forgetting the whole thing, we decided to order him a nice male from the Olive Garden and put him on tonight's "RidicuList."
(SOUND EFFECT: DRUM BEAT)
COOPER: A lot more ahead, starting with the scheme to -- to sell official-looking 9/11 memorial coins. Some are calling it a scam. The company says they're doing nothing wrong. We have the allegations and the evidence. "Keeping Them Honest."